Monday, March 31, 2008

Are You Engaged?

  Papa is good about taking the things in my day to day life and allowing them to speak to me of a magnificent truth.  I love that about Him.  Life doesn’t have to be complicated, hearing Him can be so simple, if I will but take the time to listen and observe.  Today He’s talking to me about my coffee warmer, which actually belongs to my husband.  It sits by my side of the bed most of the time, though.  I use it to keep my tea warm while I sit with Papa and contemplate life. 

       He reminds me of the day I went to take a sip of my “expectant” warmed tea to find it dreadfully cold.  Could it be that my precious mug warmer had seen it’s final day?  A quick assessment caused me to find that the plug was in the extension cord, but not fully engaged.  Though it looked plugged in, it had broken loose from the power.  A little jostling around with the prongs into the cord caused it to once again engage and begin to slowly warm my tea.

      I am amazed at what Papa shows me, at just the right moment, about this picture for my life.  How often am I hooked up to the power source, but not fully engaged?  To the outside it looks like everything is intact, yet life is lukewarm and sometimes dreadfully cold.  It feels like something inside has died.   Somehow I’ve become disengaged from the source of power, limiting it's affects in my life.

      How often do we go through life, plugged in but not engaged?  How easy it is to be tugged just enough to become disengaged and distracted from living life to the full.  How easy it is to unplug and just exist.  When life grows cold we wonder why.  We’re not even aware that we have disconnected, after all we are still attached to the cord. 

      Maybe we choose not to fully engage.  Maybe we like having a little control and self-preservation.  Maybe we hold back from being fully connected for fear of what it might cost us.  If we can just hold people at a level where the appearance is intimate, yet disengage just enough to be safe, then maybe it will be enough.  Maybe no one will notice.  It's not enough.  It leaves life dreadfully cold.  We were meant to be engaged fully in relationship with Papa and with others.  When we're not, life is not as it was meant to be.

      The source of life indwells us.  We house the seed of life, we are the temple, the dwelling of Christ, yet life can can seem so stagnant, empty, lifeless, and cold.  To bear the life of Christ we cannot just be hooked up, we have to be engaged.  Self-preservation keeps part of us withheld under our control.  He doesn’t want part of our hearts.  He wants it all.  He wants us to risk in love, to interlock fully, in order to find that life to the full that He promises us, with Himself and with others.

      Papa asks me, “Jewel, will you engage yourself, all of you, with me?” “Will you set aside all control, all self-protection, independence, performance  and need me?”  “Draw your power from me, not your capabilities.”  “Don’t hold anything back, Jewel.”  “I want it all.”  “It’s then my power will course through you.”  “It’s then you will be alive, fully alive.”  "It's then you will know love, complete, perfect love."  "If you hold back with others, Jewel, you'll rob them, you'll rob yourself and you'll rob me."  Life will never be full."  "Because I bear love through you to others and with others to you."  "There's no need for self-preservation, I've got you."  "Will you trust me to preserve you?"

      A simple cup warmer speaks Papa's heart to me.  He's speaking to you too.  Do you hear Him?  Look around you and consider, what's Papa asking you?

      9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 

   10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How do you see love?

I am an avid journaler. I love it when Papa speaks His heart to me. One day this week I drew away to talk to Him about love.
Honestly I found it difficult to approach Him, after all I had not responded well to a situation at home the day before. I found myself tenative and ashamed to sit with Him. I knew in my heart that He was not disappointed with me, but in my head I could just see the look of disappointment on His face. I found it difficult to believe He would want to talk to me. He proved me wrong.
Here's what He spoke to me:
"I always want to talk with you, Jewel. My love is not conditional. That means I am not loving you based on actions or mistakes. If you base my love and acceptance on actions and conditions, then it will always fail you. I do not welcome you because of your good behavior. I welcome you because you are mine. I'm not like people. I'm perfect and my love is perfect. I don't base my love on your mistake or successes. I always want you here with me. I am never disappointed with you, though I do hurt FOR you when you get caught up in the world, the flesh and the enemy's lies. You base my love on actions too. Don't base my love on what you see me doing or not doing. Base it on who I am."
It's true. He's right. I do base his love on conditional things, often. When I pray and He is silent I know in my heart that He never leaves me or forsakes me, but how quickly the feelings rise up that say, "does He care?" "Has He forgotten me?" "Do I matter to Him?" It's easy to do. After all we have never seen Him face to face. All that we choose is by faith. Jesus tells Thomas in the book of John that blessed are those who have not seen Him, yet believe. I wonder why we are more blessed. After all we have the battles with doubt and unbelief that those who saw didn't. They saw the evidences of His love. They could look in His eyes and see it, and more than that, they witnessed it up close and personal as He touched lives one at a time. It's hard living in the unseen faith. Could it be that they believed because they saw and we see because we believe?
It's so easy to base Papa's heart towards me on what He does or does not do. After all, we learn early on to look for the approval of those significant in our lives. But that's not true love. And that kind of love will always fail. When I base Papa's love on actions, whether mine or His, it cheapens love. It puts Him on a performance wheel with a grading system. You can't grade true love.
As I sat with Him He reminded me of the time one of my children told me that they did not feel important to me because of something I had not done. I was so frustrated when they said this. After all what about all the things I had done for them. Didn't they count for anything? I had given my life for them (to an extent). Was that nothing? A little more of His heart is revealed to me through my day to day life. It hurts when we put His love under conditions, just like it hurts me to hear my children looking at my actions and judging my love. Unfortunately it's more common that not with us followers of God.
We creatures of the earth are more familiar with conditional love than unconditional love. We look for proof. Blessed are those who have never seen, yet believe.
I left my time with Jesus that day asking Him to teach me how to live in the covenant of love with Him, allowing Him to cloak me with His embrace. He pledged His love for me and gave me His name. He loves me with an everlasting love, a love that never fails. It is unlike any love I have ever experienced or will experience. It's perfect and perfect love cannot be graded.
How about you? How do you see love?
" The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love: Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness, Jeremiah 31:3
©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Monday, March 24, 2008

My blog had to move

Dear faithful friends,
    My blog had to move.  It's a long story....but let's just say it was easier to move it than to start all over.

    I have posted some of my old posts from my old blog, just to make it familiar to me and those of you who are used to visiting me.

    If you lose your way here, just go to my old blog and follow the link here.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Lessons From the wasps

As we sat in the great room of the beautiful mountain cabin we noticed a wasp gliding on the window trying to find warmth. The change of weather has really thrown things out of kilter here in the South. One day you are having 70 degree weather and the next a storm front hits, bringing the temperatures back down to normal for this time of year. It's throwing everything into a tizzy, including the wasps. The warmth was just enough to stir them out of their nests, the cold that followed numbed them sending them into confusion, and immobilization. One after another found it's way into the cabin, landing on the furniture doors and windows, moving slowly about. Drawn to the windows and doors you knew they could see where they were supposed to be, yet couldn't find the release from their captivity. Being highly allergic to wasps, the only solution my husband had was to kill them. Since the cold had numbed them they didn't fly too quickly. It was easy to take them out with one swat of a shoe.

I couldn't help but see the lessons to be gained from the wasp. It applies so much to our lives today in this busy world that we live in. We are awakened to the warmth of life, inviting us to live in relationship with God, with others. But once we are out of the nests the "cold", the world's distractions, hit us numbing us and sending us into confusion and immobilization. Do you find yourself at the end of the weekend or even the end of the day feeling empty, sometimes? Maybe it's just me. But here in this household we easily find the things of the world that numb you from moving into what really brings life. 

Isn't it easier to turn on a movie and sit in a room together instead of engage in meaningful conversation. When you've had a long week, don't you just want to curl up in your pj's on the couch and go numb all weekend? Sometimes we need those times of disengaging, but how much is too much? Deep down inside, does something seem to be missing? It's so easy for me to find myself escaping in the computer world. It's easier to find relationships online than it is to find them in my own neighborhood. Some of that is reality. But how much of it is choice? How many Friday nights am I inviting someone into my home to play games, or have a cup of coffee?

Why is it that life seems to zap us like the cold does the wasps? Why does life seem to leave less than what we desire? If God said He came to give us life to the full, then why does it often feel so empty? Why do our "worlds" seem to manage us instead of us "managing" our worlds? How well am I ruling and reigning over my domain? It is what God told Adam and Eve to do before sin entered the world. Once sin entered, it seems everything went into a crazy, chaotic battle. Doesn't life feel that way sometimes? Do you just feel like you have to battle to move one step forward into relationship and life? Do you find yourself numb? 

The wasps were looking for warmth. That's why they came inside. But it wasn't where they belonged. It wasn't where they were designed to be. So what about us? Are we living like we were destined to live? We were made in the image of relationship for relationship, not just with God but with each other. What's happened to us? These are the questions I am asking myself, these days.

In this "technology" world, doesn't it seem that people are in their homes alone more than living in relationship with others? Being a child of the 50's before all the technology was filling homes we spent time together with other families enjoying relationship. Hours of playing with friends while our parents played cards fill my memory. I can remember "solitare wars" in my house growing up. After all we only had 3 channels on the TV and it went off at midnight, no VCR's, no DVD's, no DVR's or Tivo, no computers, ipods, nintendo's or X-box. We had no TV's in the cars. We actually had to make up games as we rode along on the long drive for vacation. The stores were all closed on Sunday. Children were outside playing until the sun went down. We spent hours using our imaginations. 

The women of 100 + years ago found themselves in quilting bees, barn raisings and community living. What's happened to us in our day?

Now a days it is hard for my children to even find other children to play with until the sun goes down. The technology of X-box and Nintendo vie for their attention, not to mention computer games, myspace, Facebook. There are so many avenues to keep them enclosed in the confines of our house. Even when the kids get together with other kids all they want to do is play computer games challenging each other. What's happened to us living in relationships with others? What happened to using imaginations?

We are created in the image of relationship, yet many of us live without that deep relationship with others that we long for. We have to do something with our time. It's easy to numb out. The more numb we become, the harder it is to escape it, like the wasps. The more we are numbed the more numbing we need. The wasps needed the lure of the light and warmth coming from the window. It was the closest thing they could get to being where they were supposed to be. But it wasn't what they were created for.

As I watched the wasps this weekend I realized. I don't want to live like that any longer. I want to live and experience all that my Papa has invited me to experience. I don't want to be distracted by the things of this world, the thorns and thistles of life that come to choke out the good seed. I want to rule my domain instead of it ruling me. I want relationships with my husband and kids to be rich. I want to live in relationship with others in my community. I want to live, not in the cold numbness but in the warmth of life.

How about you? How numb are you? What is the cry of your heart?

Jesus said, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I came that they might have life, and have it to the full."

May we all find that life.



©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Days of Grace

“No longer are there good days and bad days. There are only days of grace. Some days you are given the grace to enjoy what is going on around you and other days you are given the grace to endure.”* The words came out of the speaker’s mouth on the CD I was listening to. How long had I been walking with God, 25 years? I’d even grown up in the church. Never had I heard anyone say anything like that before. Could this be true? No longer good or bad days, only days of grace. Don’t these words give you a totally different picture on the days of your life, including those difficult home school moments?

As a home school parent in my 16th year. I have seen them all. Whether it was finding out my son had skipped his English for a week, lying about it to cover his tracks, or the attitudes, home school has had it’s challenges.  Frustrated and angry, ready to give up at times, I wasn’t looking for grace.  All I could see was the mess.  I’ve heard it said,  “what you focus on is what you will see.”  If I focus on the chaos, all I will see is chaos.  If I focus on the grace, all I will see is grace.

Home schooling is full of it’s demands and difficulties from time to time.  Lately, I have had more difficulty in dealing with attitudes than accomplishing the assignments.  From time to time you find yourself on the edge thinking, “now why was it I decided to school my kids?”  On those enduring days it’s easy to find yourself daydreaming about putting them on the bus.  You could spend your “free” time playing or reading a good book, all by yourself with no attitudes to challenge your day.   If you haven’t had those thoughts, most likely at some point, you will.  

The moments when the kids do their assignments with cheerful attitudes, school is done on time, supper is in the crock pot by noon, I enjoy what is going on around me.  Life is good.  But what about the days when it all falls apart?  It is a paradox.  When the days are going well, you love it, when they aren’t, well, you wonder, struggle, daydream and question.

Jesus told us in John 16: that in this world we would have troubles, but to take heart, He has overcome the world.  There will be days of troubles, whether in life or in school.  The good news is Jesus overcame them. He shows up with grace in the midst of the struggles.  He’s there offering the overcoming power of God on those enduring days of school and life.

I think the hardest person for us to have grace with is ourselves. Especially in those places we are responsible for, like our school.  After all, it’s up to us to make sure these children grow up into educated adults.   We could mess up their lives, couldn’t we?  If we take a day off, will life just slip through the cracks?  If we live in grace, will our school somehow go off the deep end?  What do we do when we reach a day where it takes all we have to endure, much less perform our duties as teacher?  Can we let ourselves off the hook?  Can we let ourselves experience grace?

One of my favorite home school memories was a day when I had nothing left in me to give.  My husband was working 72 hours a week in his own business. Pregnant with my 5th child, 3 school age children, and 1 preschooler, I was exhausted and in desperate need of a break.  I had nothing in me to give and there sat three children waiting for something from me to start their morning of education.  The thought of doing school brought me to tears. It wasn’t that I  wanted to walk away from my responsibility.  I  just didn’t have it in me.  God had something He wanted to do through me, I just didn’t know what.

I called my older sister to cry on her shoulder.  She suggested that I let the kids write and perform their own Thanksgiving play.  After all my oldest, a creative 9 year old, loved a challenge.  I would not have ever considered it.  It wasn’t the typical day of books and learning I was used to doing.  She encouraged me that school would be OK, the kids would love it, and I needed the rest.  I listened to her.  I gave myself grace.

It was as if my whole being sighed in relief.  That’s what grace does.  It brings a sigh of relief, giving you permission to just be, knowing He is God.  He will cover my home school. The truth is God gives us all that we need, to do all that He has called us to do.  If we don’t have what we need from Him to do  what’s on the schedule, then maybe we’re not supposed to do it.   In Proverbs it says “a man makes his plans, but God alters his steps.  Maybe God wants to alter our steps in our school.  Maybe He has other things in mind, that if we will just listen and follow, we will discover.  He did for us that day.

I approached the kids with the idea, they could not have been more delighted.  Not only were they going to get to do something different.  I was trusting them to come up with their own play, props, costumes, and lines.   It boosted their confidence when I trusted them to follow their hearts using their creativity.  All day they worked, planning the costumes, practicing.   They couldn’t wait to perform their masterpiece.   I will never forget it.  The laughter, the costumes, their rendition of the first Thanksgiving warmed my heart.  To this day, 11 years later, my kids still talk about it.  No it was not the typical school day that I felt was required, but it is one we remember the most.  

Days of grace are all around us.   God promises His grace to be sufficient for each one.  Sometimes we are given the ability to get through, enduring life around us.  Other times everything goes just right, allowing us to enjoy our worlds.  Either way, every day is a day of grace.  

Go easy on yourself, let God’s grace guide you and your school.  Let it lead you to do the things He desires you to do.  Enjoy the days of rest, knowing that they prepare you for the days to endure.  

In the grand scheme of things, this time with our kids is but a fleeting moment.  Make the moments last.  You might just find in the process you are creating memories that will be last a lifetime.   

Just a few weeks ago the family sat around that table talking one evening before my oldest daughter left for a 5 months missions trip overseas. The memory of when they wrote and performed the Thanksgiving play came up again.  We laughed as we remembered, after all she played the turkey.  Eleven years have passed, yet it’s remembered like it was yesterday.   Precious memories that last a lifetime were made that day.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  

©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Whose eyes are you looking through?

Whose Eyes are you looking through?

If you could describe yourself in 5 words what would those words be? Who do you see yourself to be? When you consider what God thinks about you, what do you think He would say? Do you think He sees you based on what you do or who you are?

How do you see yourself before Him? Do you think He looks at what you have done or not done? 

What labels do you place on yourself? What have the messages of your life's path told you of who you are? Do you see yourself through what has happened to you, or what you have done? Once Mary Magdelene was invited into Christ's life did she continue to tell herself that she was a prostitute or did she finally see herself through the eyes of Christ? I think when Jesus said to her, "Go and sin no more" He was saying, "that's not who you are, don't go back to that place."

Your past does not define you. It is removed completely. God no longer remembers it. He no longer sees you in your sin. He sees you restored unto Him. He sees Jesus. After all He has told us that we are a new creation, the old is gone the new has come. It's as if you were reborn into who you were always meant to be. Do you see that?

I love the story of Gideon. It's a perfect picture of how we respond to God. Gideon is hiding in the winepress. The Israelites are being attacked and he is hiding out hoping no one will find him. An angel appears to him and says. "Gideon, O Valiant Warrior". He then proceeds to tell Gideon that he will be used to deliver the Israelites. He is God's Valiant Warrior. I hear in Gideon's response that he thinks the angel must be talking about someone else.

Gideon's response is much like our own when God calls us out, "but I am the least in my family and my clan is the weakest clan". He is basically saying, "I'm not who you think I am." Gideon sees himself in his weakness, his flesh, his past, his heritage. The angel sees him in his true identity, who he was created to be.

How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself in your weakness or in the strength of who you were created to be?

God does not see us the way we see ourselves. He sees us cloaked with Christ, completed in Him. When God looks at us He sees us in our restored state, who we were always meant to be.

We are the ones who have the vision problem.

What you do or have done does not define who you are. Your identity is bestowed by God and God alone. It's not given based on what you do. Your identity comes from who God always meant you to be. He has known of you for a long time. No man or woman can take your identity or give it. It was ordained by God, Himself. You are who He says you are. 

God saw Gideon as his Valiant Warrior when Gideon could not see it for Himself.

God sees you and has a name He calls you. It is the truest you.

He does not want you for what you can do for Him. He wants you for who you are. He formed you to love you, just as you are until you could embrace who He made you to be.

Your birth was His invitation to be loved completely.

Ask God what name He would give to you. Ask Him how He sees you. He longs to tell you what He thinks of you.

Embrace what He says as the truest you.

After all, He knows you by name!

I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. Rev. 2:17b

His Jewel

©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd